Last weekend, I took Ollie to County’s penultimate home match of the season and, as we often do prior to a home game, we nipped into the pub beforehand to meet some friends of mine for a quick pint (Ollie just had a half, as he was driving and had to be up early the next day).
Unfortunately, my favoured pre-match pub is quite a walk from the ground, so, because I had Ollie with me, and since we were somewhat pushed for time, we arranged to meet my friends in the Royal Oak, which is situated near to the ground, on Castle Street in Edgeley.
Looks all right from the outside, doesn’t it?
However, unless you are familiar with the watering establishments of Edgeley (and I suspect many of you are not), I had better describe the Royal Oak for you. If you imagine ‘The Cantina’ from Star Wars, it’s a little like that, only the people are funnier looking and the bar staff less friendly.
I have been going in the Royal Oak since I was a kid, and in all that time I am relatively certain it hasn’t changed one bit. To my knowledge, there has been no attempt at refurbishment (I recall that it was closed for a short period a few years ago, but the only noticeable difference when it re-opened, was that the bar towels had been given a wash – unfortunately the same could not be said for the barmaid) and when you walk in, it is a little like stepping back in time. Sadly, where the décor and snacks may be from the 1960s, the price of the (not very well kept) beer, is the only aspect which is modern.
I only frequent this pub out of habit and convenience, and it is certainly not a place I would wish to spend too much time. Seemingly, the majority of Stockport agrees with me, as it is usually relatively quiet, even on match days.
Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I walked in last Saturday to find that one half of the entire pub was filled by a rather large, and boisterous, hen party.
Now, on a match day the Royal Oak is usually populated with a mixture of County fans who are too lazy to go somewhere nicer for a pint, and the non-football-following undesirables of Stockport (or ‘City fans’ as they are commonly known). I cannot ever recall there being a hen party before.
However, if you bear in mind my description of this particular pub, and the fact that these women (I initially typed ‘ladies’, but thought better of it – in fact, even ‘women’ is being a little generous to some of them) were utterly plastered by around 1.30pm, it gives you some idea of the class of female we are dealing with. Ladies Day at Ascot, it was not.
I am not besmirching the womenfolk of Stockport here, as some of them are delightfully average-looking, nor am I suggesting that it is inappropriate for a hen party to be inebriated by 1.30pm, but these women were so rough, I actually winced when I saw them. No word of a lie, I spotted one of the older attendees – who was wearing something so short that it barely covered her drooping boobs, let alone her underwear (honestly, they were like a spaniel’s ears) – and my eyes began to sting as if I had been chopping onions all morning.
Before I had chance to look away, she caught me tearing up, and I had to make some feeble excuse about being emotional because the bride-to-be looked so radiant (“You barely notice the black eye, and that dress is so flattering over her baby bump. She must be due any day now…. Oh, she’s not? Still, she looks lovely”), before making a hasty retreat.
Since I had already arranged to meet my friends at the pub, and it was too late to change our plans and go somewhere else, I quickly bought a beer for me, and a blackcurrant juice for Ollie, and we huddled together at the farthest table from the group.
I also made sure that Ollie had his back to the group, partly to avoid him having nightmares that evening, but more importantly because I did not want him reading the individual pink sashes that each of the women was wearing to identify themselves.
Look, I explained recently (#64 – Go Blog Yourself) that I am not averse to a little swearing every now and then, in fact I relish it, but even I won’t repeat what they had written on these sashes. To give you some idea of the language they thought was appropriate for a daytime session in the pub, I will substitute certain words for my favourite drinks and snacks. There was:
‘[Hobnob] Gobbler Carol’;
‘[Bacon Fries] Muncher Donna’;
‘[Apple Tango] Guzzling Jemma’; and
‘Up The [Terry’s Chocolate Orange] Anna’
To name but a few.
I honestly believe that, even if the sashes had been crafted from pink sandpaper, these women could not have been any rougher. They often say ‘you can’t polish a turd’, but it seems you can certainly roll one in glitter and stick a Poundstretcher tiara on it. They made these women (who I just found online, by searching for ‘pig ugly hen parties’) look classy in comparison:
They were so astonishingly repugnant, it was hard not to stare, but I knew that if one of them caught me looking, there was every chance I would be on the receiving end of either a sound beating, or some form of bodily violation involving one of the large plastic phalluses they were waiving around.
So, for the next half an hour or so (I couldn’t choke down the lukewarm beer any faster) I focussed intently on Ollie’s Euro 2016 sticker book, and tried to match his (genuine) enthusiasm for the Albanian national side.
I am not a huge fan of the Royal Oak, as I have said, but I don’t believe I have ever been so grateful to leave it alive.
My encounter with the hen party got me thinking back to my own stag do in 2004 (which was a moderately civilised affair, as you might imagine) and more recently my brother’s in 2012. Both had involved trips to Edinburgh – which is probably my favourite city in the UK – but that is where the similarity between the two ends.
It would not be right of me to discuss what went on during my brother’s stag party – after all, ‘what happens on the stag, stays on the stag’ – but no one ever said that you cannot discuss the journey there, and since it was probably the most I have laughed in years, I want to share with you what happened…
… which I will do next week.